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Desalination Threat To Sydney's Sea Life


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Desalination threat to Sydney's sea life

The Australian Marine Scientific Association warned the NSW government a year ago that its desalination plant will have a significant and negative impact on Sydney sea life.

In a worst case scenario scientists fear the desalination plant could turn reef near the desalination plant at Kurnell into deserts.

In a submission sent to government on February 1st last year and obtained by National Nine News the Association warns of "direct adverse environmental impacts on at least two areas of the NSW marine environment."

"It's going to have a substantial impact on the variety of sea life both in marine plants and sea and animals," said AMSA state president Dr Jane Williamson.


"We don't know what will actually happen but we know it will be fairly dramatic."

The State Government maintains desalination will not cause serious harm to marine life.

Of particular concern to AMSA, which represents 180 scientists in NSW, is discharge from the plant. The concentrate is a warm, extremely salty water which will contain a mixture of chemicals.

"We predict the outflow will have a major negative impact on the rocky reef," said Dr Williamson.

Published reports from Sydney Water reveal that the discharge will also contain biocides - chemical agents used to keep pipes clean by killing marine life.

The official assessment of the discharge predicts the seawater concentrate will dilute quickly in ocean currents. However AMSA warns the liquid is heavier than the surrounding sea and is likely to sink and coat the ocean for up to a kilometre with a potentially toxic plume.

Dr Williamson said a large number of sea animals would be unable to cope with the increased salinity.

"It could be anything from a loss of several species to a desert," said Dr Williamson.

Endangered species living near the discharge area include eastern devil blue fish and weedy sea dragons.

The scientific community also warned the government that construction of a pipeline to carry desalinated water across Botany Bay will disturb sea grass beds that provide a vital habitat for juvenile fish.

Marine Biologist Dr Brendan Kelaher said while efforts had been made to avoid the protected sea grass it was likely some would be destroyed leading to a reduction in commercial and recreational fish stocks.

"If we lose sea grass we lose fish populations and the health of our coastal systems decreases," he said.

Water Minister David Campbell defended the desalination plant today. He said extensive environmental impact assessments had been carried out.

"There will be no significant adverse impact," he said. "You obviously can't build a piece of infrastructure without some change."

The NSW Government has committed to building the $1.9 billion desalination plant if it wins office in March.

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